Today we might look up at the great sculpture of Christ above our main altar and call it “The Ascension of the Lord.” At the same time, we might imagine ourselves to be those disciples who received his blessing as he was taken up into heaven. But now what? The original disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” to be found later, “continually in the temple praising God.” Well I dare say we will be found these days “continually in the temple,” but more likely there to attend graduations.Graduations to the right of us, graduations to the left of us! – and all those valedictorian speeches! Just how many times can you promise “ending world hunger,” “halting global warming,” and “realizing world peace”? What I want to hear from one of our Catholic valedictorians this year is a promise to end SIN. Is that asking too much?
Actually that is the connection to today’s Solemnity of The Ascension of the Lord. Both the Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father (and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, for good measure and to be gender inclusive), is about freedom from sin and preservation from sin. NO SIN is exactly what qualified both Jesus and Mary to be taken up into heaven. Therefore I recommend to all graduates that they focus on eradicating sin as the best gift to the world that their generation could possibly offer. I tell second graders every year that sin is any way that we turn our backs on God—any way that we refuse to be the good and caring people God has called us to be. So if our 2014 grads could just twitter and Instagram us into turning away from sin, they could bring us all and themselves a long way to assuring our own ascensions into heaven one day.
When all is said and done, really, we can’t hang all the challenges of the Gospel on our graduates. On this Ascension Sunday, it is to all of us here, and to all who would follow Jesus, that the “two men in white garments” ask, “Why are you sitting here looking up at the sculpture on the wall? Get busy!” – busy about spreading the Good News and building the Kingdom (poetic license taken).